Abusing the Megaphone
Abusing the Megaphone
Nobody enjoys being slandered. A besmirched reputation, no less than a black eye, arouses the urge to fight back. However, thirsting for vengeance is dangerous, even when the grievance is just. A healthy desire to restore your good name can be easily upstaged by an undisciplined thrill at shaming your adversary.
For the much-maligned Family Research Council (FRC), it is hazardous to navigate these waters. The FRC is outspoken in its support for biblical marriage and sexuality. The group routinely endures scurrilous accusations of bigotry. It's not hard to fathom why FRC might wish to seize any opportunity for settling scores with ideological foes.
We believe most of the FRC's positions, policy statements, and goals are on target. But we have major reservations about FRC's methods for public engagement. Too often, its leaders traffic in flatly untrue statements. (Among FRC president Tony Perkins's claims: President Obama hates Christianity; his administration excludes Christians; and the military, under his command, bans Bibles and embraces bestiality.)
We can understand why Perkins lashed out at an obnoxious rival, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in the wake of an attempted massacre at FRC's Washington, D.C., headquarters. Once a venerable civil-rights organization, the SPLC has disgraced itself in recent years by branding the FRC an anti-homosexual "hate group." Certainly, the SPLC deserves to have its falsehoods rebutted. But the FRC erred in eagerly claiming, so soon after the attack, that the SPLC had given the gunman "a license to shoot."
About the would-be mass murderer's motives, there can be little dispute. The suspect, 28-year-old Floyd Corkins, allegedly told an FRC security guard, "I don't like your politics"—a reference to FRC's opposition to homosexuality. During the altercation that followed, the guard took a bullet in the arm. (Heroically, the guard wrestled the gunman to the ground, almost certainly preventing further bloodshed.) Corkins had entered the FRC lobby toting a bundle of sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, the fast-food flashpoint in the national debate over same-sex marriage.
Had the campaign of vilification by SPLC eroded moral barriers to violence? Perkins very seriously entertained that possibility. At a news conference, he observed, "Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy." Appearing on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program, Perkins blamed the SPLC for "creating the environment that led" to the gunman's murderous rage.
Perhaps this seems like a refreshing example of comeuppance. But Christians should take no delight in seeing the SPLC smeared. We abhor its moves to stamp pariah status on the moral disapproval of homosexuality. Yet both the content and the timing of the FRC's counteroffensive demonstrate poor judgment on its part.
There's no way reasonable people can judge the SPLC responsible (either directly or indirectly) for Corkins's assault. In pretending otherwise, the FRC indulges one of the nastiest habits fouling our nation's politics. It is never appropriate to lump together peaceful proponents of controversial viewpoints with extremists who pursue violent means. Conservative Christians, so often the target of malicious guilt-by-association tactics, should be ashamed to employ these tactics themselves.